SINGAPORE - The police have opened investigations into Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his wife Lee Suet Fern for potential offences of giving false evidence in judicial proceedings, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean told Parliament on Thursday.
The couple have left Singapore after refusing to go for a police interview that they had initially agreed to attend, Mr Teo said in a written reply.
The Court of Three Judges and a disciplinary tribunal had in 2020 found that the couple had lied under oath during disciplinary proceedings against Mrs Lee over her handling of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s last will.
Mrs Lee had been referred to a disciplinary tribunal by the Law Society over her role in the preparation and execution of the last will of the late Mr Lee, her father-in-law, who died on March 23, 2015, at the age of 91.
His last will differed from his sixth and penultimate will in significant ways, and did not contain some changes he had wanted and discussed with his lawyer Kwa Kim Li four days earlier.
Among the differences was a demolition clause – relating to the demolition of his 38 Oxley Road house after his death – which had not been in the sixth or penultimate will but was in the last.
This clause became a sticking point between the late Mr Lee’s children, Mr Lee Hsien Yang, Dr Lee Wei Ling and their brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Mrs Lee’s role in the will had sparked a complaint by the Attorney-General’s Chambers to the Law Society about possible professional misconduct on her part, and a disciplinary tribunal was convened to hear the case.
After finding her guilty of grossly improper professional conduct, the tribunal referred the case to the Court of Three Judges, the highest disciplinary body to deal with lawyers’ misconduct.
Mr Teo, who headed a ministerial committee in 2016 to look into what to do with 38 Oxley Road, noted on Thursday that both the court and the tribunal had found that Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee lied under oath.
Quoting the tribunal’s report, he said the couple had presented “an elaborate edifice of lies... both on oath... and through their public and other statements”, which had been referred to during the proceedings, and that their affidavits contained lies that “were quite blatant”.
Hence, the police have commenced investigations into them for potential offences of giving false evidence in judicial proceedings, said Mr Teo.
He added that as part of the investigations, the police requested an interview with Mr Lee and Mrs Lee, which they initially agreed to attend.
“However, (they) later had a change of heart and refused to attend. Their refusal is disappointing,” he said.
He also said the police have advised Mr Lee and Mrs Lee to reconsider participating in investigations, but they have since left Singapore and remain out of the country.
The police have thus informed them that necessary steps would be taken to complete the investigations in their absence, added Mr Teo.
“Their refusal to participate raises questions. If they maintain their innocence, the investigation will give them the chance to vindicate themselves,” he said.
“They should participate, take the full opportunity to give their side of the story, and clear their names.”
In a Facebook post on Thursday night, Mr Lee said: “The persecution of my family by the Singapore authorities continues unabated.”
He also said: “In 2020, they prosecuted my wife over (Lee Kuan Yew’s) 2013 will. I was the real target. The relentless attacks continue.”
In response to queries, a police spokesman said on Thursday night that the police had started investigations into Mr Lee and Mrs Lee “following a referral in October 2021”, and in June 2022, asked the couple to attend an interview.
They agreed to assist but asked for a different date, and the interview was rescheduled to July 2022. But they did not turn up, and sent a letter by e-mail to say they would not participate in the investigation.
“The police established that Mr Lee and Mrs Lee left Singapore after police engaged them in June 2022. They have not returned to Singapore since. Police investigations are ongoing,” said the spokesman.
Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (Chua Chu Kang GRC) had filed a parliamentary question on the accuracy of the events described by an e-book titled The Battle Over Lee Kuan Yew’s Last Will, and Mr Teo was responding to him.
The book was published in July 2022 by author Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh, who runs Jom, a weekly digital magazine covering arts, culture, politics, business and technology in Singapore.
Mr Zhulkarnain had asked if the book accurately represents the circumstances surrounding the signing of the late Mr Lee’s last will, as found by the disciplinary tribunal and the Court of Three Judges.
To this, Mr Teo said: “Many Singaporeans would prefer to put behind us questions about Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s last will. But there are continuing efforts to rewrite the facts.
“The e-book by Mr Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh... is one such example.”
He added: “Mr Thomas claims to have spent a year scrutinising the evidence to shine a light on the events. However, the book is not credible, as it totally ignores the facts and findings which had been established, after an objective and thorough examination of the case, by the Court of Three Judges in November 2020 and a disciplinary tribunal in February 2020.”
Besides finding that Mr Lee and Mrs Lee had lied under oath, the court and the tribunal had also found that the couple had misled the late Mr Lee in the context of the execution of his last will, added Mr Teo.
Given this, he said, the court and the tribunal had concluded that Mrs Lee was guilty of misconduct.
Mr Teo, citing the findings, said that Mrs Lee had “focused primarily on what her husband wanted done”, and “worked together with Mr Lee Hsien Yang, with a singular purpose, of getting (Mr Lee Kuan Yew) to execute the last will quickly”.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew “ended up signing a document which was in fact not that which he had indicated he wished to sign”, added Mr Teo, citing the findings.
Noting that Mrs Lee was suspended by the Court of Three Judges from practising as a lawyer for 15 months, Mr Teo said: “This is quite a serious penalty.”
In a reply to queries from The Straits Times on Thursday night, Mr Thomas defended the conclusions in his book, reiterating that it had been the product of a year of research based on “the compilation of affidavits, pleadings, formal documents and submissions” in the disciplinary case against Mrs Lee.
He added: “Readers will see that the book is exhaustively footnoted... I believe Singaporeans can read the book and make up their own minds about our team’s editorial rigour and impartiality with the material.”
The Senior Minister chairs the Cabinet in matters relating to 38 Oxley Road, as PM Lee had recused himself, said Mr Teo’s press secretary Lee May Lin in response to queries.